Unusual And Sexy: Lauper and Stewart Take Saratoga By Storm

Rod Stewart is still sexy, if you were wondering. And he likes his job. A lot.

He performed a high energy set to a sea of fans at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 22 surrounded by fantastic musicians, including a show stopping tenor performance by Jimmy “Saxman” Roberts.

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Cyndi Lauper opened for the legendary Stewart with “Funnel of Love,” and even some of her biggest fans were confused. Behind the beat and somewhat flat, Lauper’s entrance was disappointing. Her talking with the audience was scattered, and until she played “Money Changes Everything,” she failed to connect to the music she was playing energetically.

That all changed with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” though. With a slide show of women’s rights posters from the Women’s March in January, Lauper empowered her audience members to demand their rights. At one point, she even stopped her band and coached the audience to sing “more convincingly,” noting if they ever wanted to get what they really wanted, they needed to ask for it.

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“True Colors” followed and reminded anyone who may have forgotten that Lauper has been an energetic activist for LGBTQ rights. From writing and producing “Kinky Boots” to using her music to encourage kindness, Lauper’s 30-year career has been inspiring. Audience members forgave the initial flat notes, and this writer even questioned if perhaps she was sick, as she had a slight cough.  The last few songs of her set absolved all of the concerns about her earlier performance, even forgiving the cover of country hit “End of the World” and silly story about her time in Nashville.

Lauper left the stage reminding the audience to have a good summer and “be good to each other,” and when the lights came up audience members were visibly moved by her gentle words.

Rod Stewart’s stage was covered by a black and white checkered curtain, and his entrance was built up dramatically with classical music. His band members entered first, covered in gold glittering costumes, and he joined them crooning “Infatuation.” Stewart moved quickly through a high energy set, singing “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” “This Old Heart of Mine,” and “Tonight’s the Night” with full audience participation.

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Stewart was all smiles and spread his contagious joy singing “Forever Young.” Mid-song he left for a costume change, and three percussionists entertained the crowd with a mesmerizing and heart pounding trio.  Stewart gladly promoted the drummers, fiddlers, harpsichordist, and saxophonist on stage with him, frequently offering opportunities for solos.

During a grouping of love songs, Stewart floated pictures of his wife and kids on the screens behind him. He smiled and admitted he had a great job as he sang a bluesy cover from Muddy Waters. With a nod to jazz blues, Stewart disclosed he owes a lot of those who inspired him.

Possibly the best moment of the night, however, came as he brought the crowd to their feet with “Downtown Train.” At its close, the tenor sax’s sweet round notes juxtaposed with high pitched screams demonstrated Jimmy Roberts’ smooth jazz talent and breath support.

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From that moment to the night’s end, Rod Stewart and his fellow musicians only got more animated. “Proud Mary” gave Stewart time to again change costume, followed by faster and faster-paced songs. He kicked his characteristic soccer balls into the audience, reminding everyone he was a pro soccer player and danced at a high pace. The crescendo peaked when Stewart asked, “Do You Think I’m Sexy.”

Clearly, the crowd does think Stewart is still sexy. At age 72, Stewart doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.  He still fills hearts with gladness and brings audacious musicians along for the ride.

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